Ranking Manchester United’s transfer window
It needed to be a big summer for the Red Devils, who are still in search of their first major trophy since the departure of Jose Mourinho in 2018. Last time out, the Reds finished runners up both in the Premier League and the Europa League, and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup before being knocked out by eventual winners Leicester City.
So close, yet ultimately they remain trophyless under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, something that must change in the next twelve months.
To this end, Manchester United were second only to Arsenal in net spend across Europe this summer, adding three players to their side for a total outlay of 126 million pounds, offset by the permanent sale of Dan James to Leeds hours before the transfer deadline.
Total net spend of Premier League clubs this transfer window..
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) September 1, 2021
But just how well has their window gone? 101 takes a look.
Big signings mean Ole needs to deliver
It is hard to argue with the additions to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad this summer. They began by adding exciting winger Jadon Sancho for a fee less than they were quoted last summer, which reportedly left those in Dortmund unhappy.
28-year-old World Cup winner Raphael Varane was next through the door, adding some much-needed quality in the heart of defence alongside Harry Maguire. The fee of around 36 million pounds can also be seen as fantastic business, given the calibre of player joining the club, and feels like a situation that Manchester United really took advantage of.
Finally, in a move that captured the frantic nature of the 2021 summer transfer window, Cristiano Ronaldo re-joined the club just 24 hours after it seemed certain that he was set to join their bitter rivals Manchester City.
7️⃣ @Cristiano#MUFC | #RonaldoReturns
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 2, 2021
It could be suggested that Manchester United were played like a fiddle by super-agent Jorge Mendes, who surely knew that Manchester United would not sanction a club legend joining their major rivals. Frankly, though, it is unlikely that any of the Old Trafford faithful will care, with the prolific striker now set to take centre stage in Manchester once more.
For those that did come in, then, there is little to criticise. However, the signings of Ronaldo and Varane mean that United can no longer settle for close, or runners up. Adding such serial winners on huge salaries means that success has to come now, not in the future.
To this end, they could and should have done more.
A big hole in the middle of the pitch
It has appeared pretty clear for the last two seasons that midfield reinforcements are needed. In the preferred 4-2-3-1 system that Solskjaer favours, it seems clear that Paul Pogba is not at his best in the double pivot among current options.
FT: Southampton 1-1 #mufc
Manchester United need a defensive midfielder, if you weren’t already aware.
— utdreport (@utdreport) August 22, 2021
Scott McTominay is currently recovering from surgery, while Nemanja Matic, now 33, appears well past his peak. The other option, Brazilian Fred, seems to be found out at the higher levels, which are those United are looking to compete in.
As such, it seems unfathomable that Brighton’s Yves Bissouma, Monaco’s Aurelian Tchouameni and Leicester’s Wilfried Ndidi were not subject to significant interest, and even bids, from the Red Devils. Indeed, all three were available all summer, and yet remain at their clubs.
The most attainable of these would have been Bissouma, with a rumoured 40 million pound price-tag on his head. Indeed, reports suggest that Manchester United will battle for his signature in January, which begs the question: why wait four months?
Of course, there is the in-house option in Dutchman Donny Van de Beek. Solskjaer refused to let the midfield man depart the club on loan in the dying embers of the transfer window, but the former Ajax man does not strike as a strong ball winning midfielder capable of unleashing Pogba.
The incomings this summer were fantastic, but to have confidence in challenging on all fronts, the club needed to push the boat out on a central midfielder.
Skeletons in the closet
As with a lot of clubs this summer, Manchester United faced difficulties when it came to offloading deadwood. Phil Jones, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata all remain at the club, despite Jones failing to appear in the Premier League last campaign, and Mata making just nine appearances.
In addition, United failed to cash in on Jesse Lingard, who has less then 12 months to run on his current deal at Old Trafford. Questions too must be asked about the future of Anthony Martial, who has seen Edinson Cavani and newcomer Ronaldo move ahead of him in the pecking order. Rotting on the bench, his value will only decrease.
United are by far not the club most guilty of this issue, with fellow Premier League clubs also stuck with unwanted options, but it represents a minor blot on the copybook.
Whichever way you look at it, Manchester United had a fantastic summer window for the most part. They signed three top level, highly experienced players, with Sancho and Varane addressing pressing issues in the side.
However, it feels as though the failure to add a top-class defensive midfielder could be a costly mistake as United look to compete on four fronts this season.